How to Choose a West Rim or South Rim Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour

by Keith Kravitz - Date: 2010-11-20 - Word Count: 634 Share This!

If you want to take a Grand Canyon helicopter tour, you must choose between the West Rim and the South Rim. It's a tough decision because both are stunning. Here's a breakdown of the rims that will make the choice easier:

The West Rim

The West Rim is 120 miles west of Las Vegas on Hualapai Indian tribal lands. It takes a helicopter 45 minutes to get there, making it a great day trip for those who are tight on time and can only spare half a day. It's also well-known for this: The Grand Canyon Skywalk and helicopter tours that land at the bottom.

Forty-four imported glass panels costing $250,000 each comprise the deck of the Skywalk. This glass deck extends 70 feet past the edge and suspends you 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. An engineering marvel, the bridge is able to withstand magnitude 8 earthquakes and winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Cameras and other personal electronics are prohibited; photographers are available to take your picture. Tip: Make sure the Skywalk is bundled into your helicopter package at time of purchase. It's cheaper.

The helicopter ride to the bottom is intense. The descent is 15-minutes long and puts you in direct contact with the canyon's steep cliffs and twisted rock formations. Some of the oldest exposed parts of the Earth's crust is at the canyon, representing four eras of geological time. Helicopters land on private landing pads. Here, you'll deplane and enjoy a Champagne toast under an authentic Indian Ramada. After that, go and check out the surrounding area and the nearby Colorado River.

The market for West Rim helicopter tours is competitive - shop for best prices. If you book using the Internet, expect to save up to 40 percent. Total round-trip time is four hours and includes hotel pick up and drop off and lunch. There are more activities that you can add to your trip, like horseback riding, kayaking, Hummer 4x4 tours, and ATV trail riding. Total trip time four hours. Packages start between $235 and $335.

The South Rim

All helicopter flights originate from Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan, a town 10 minutes from the Park's main entrance. The drive from Phoenix and Sedona is two and four hours, respectively. From Las Vegas, you must book an air-ground package, which is done aboard a fixed-wing Vistaliner aircraft and takes 45 minutes.

Upon arriving at the rim, you'll transfer to a helicopter and head out over the Kaibab Plateau until you reach the Dragoon Corridor, the widest, deepest section of the canyon. Other landmarks include Temple Butte, the Zuni Corridor, the North Rim, and the Painted Desert. The Las Vegas package also includes ground transfer to the South Rim, where you'll spend several hours exploring the national park, including the restaurants and gift shops at Grand Canyon Village.

The South Rim is where the most famous pictures and images of the canyon are shot. Helicopter tours last up to 40 minutes. Total Las Vegas trip time, including helicopter flight and bus transfer to Grand Canyon Village, is six hours, and includes hotel pick up and drop off and lunch. Helicopter flights to the South Rim start at $135 per person. The Las Vegas package starts at $360 per person.


Deciding between the West Rim and the South Rim is the first thing you need to do before booking a Grand Canyon helicopter tour. The West Rim is packed with things to do, and it's close to Las Vegas. The South Rim boasts the best viewpoints, hiking trails, and guest amenities. The three top tour operators - Papillon, Maverick, and Sundance - offer helicopter and air-helicopter-ground trips to both rims, ranging in price from $135 per person to $360 per person. For the best deals, always book online. Now, with this information in hand, you are cleared for take off.

Keith Kravitz is a travel critic who regularly reports on the Grand Canyon tour industry. If you found this article helpful, check out his helicopter trip reviews at: http://www.GrandCanyonHelicopterTourReviews.comn
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